As e-readers grow in popularity as convenient alternatives to traditional books, researchers at the Smithsonian have found that convenience may not be their only benefit. The team discovered that when e-readers are set up to display only a few words per line, some people with dyslexia can read more easily, quickly and with greater comprehension. Their findings are published in the Sept. 18 issue of the journal PLOS ONE.
An element in many cases of dyslexia is called a visual attention deficit. It is marked by an inability to concentrate on letters within words or words within lines of text. Another element is known as visual crowding--the failure to recognize letters when they are cluttered within the word. Using short lines on an e-reader can alleviate these issues and promote reading by reducing visual distractions within the text.
"At least a third of those with dyslexia we tested have these issues with visual attention and are helped by reading on the e-reader," said Matthew H. Schneps, director of the Laboratory for Visual Learning at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and lead author of the research. "For those who don't have these issues, the study showed that the traditional ways of displaying text are better."